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Photo by Aare Hindremäe

 

A memorial to Estonians who died fleeing their country by sea in 1944 in the face of invading Soviet forces, as well as to remember all those who fled, was formally unveiled on Puise beach, Lääne County on September 19th.


"An estimated 5,000 people entered the sea, not to return," Arnold Aljaste, head of the Estonian Memorial Association (Eesti Memento Liit) told ERR.


"Everything that could float went to sea, including still-seaworthy boats, which went back and forth and made a lot of trips.

 

There were motorcycles, cars, prams etc. left here – the beach was clogged with them," he added.


Autumn 1944 saw tens of thousands of people fleeing Estonia for Sweden from Puise and other sites, many of whom did not survive the journey, succumbing to exposure, drowning or aerial attacks by Soviet planes.


The monument was designed by Aivar Simson, based on an idea from one almost-escapee, Heidi Ivask, who was a babe-in-arms at the time.


Other refugees to witness  the memorial's unveiling included Jaak Maandi (on the photo), then eight years old.

 

Maandi's father Helmut had been secretary of state in the short-lived September-October 1944 Otto Tief government, which existed in the vacuum left by the fleeing Nazi German forces and ahead of the full occupation by the incoming Soviets.

 

VES/ERR

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